The Problem

100,000 million Christians face persecution simply for following Jesus 
The Problem

World Watch List 2021: Key trends

By Dan Etheridge

The church is alive. The church is active. The church is growing. And that’s why the church is persecuted.

The persecution of Christians is getting more severe than ever, affecting increasing numbers of believers around the world. This overview of persecution trends will help give you a better understanding of the situation, and equip you to pray for your brothers and sisters following Jesus no matter the cost.

Persecution continues to rise

For the first time since Open Doors started compiling the World Watch List, all top 50 countries score at least ’very high’ levels of persecution. Twelve countries are categorised as having ‘extreme’ levels of persecution, up from 11 the year before. And there are another 24 countries scoring ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of persecution that don’t even make it into the top 50.

Covid-19 is used as a weapon by persecutors

Open Doors research reveals the extent to which Christians are being specifically excluded from receiving Covid-19 aid. Incidents have been recorded across Asia and Africa – where vulnerable believers are deliberately neglected by local authorities when food is distributed, Christian nurses are denied vital PPE, and some Christians are even baselessly blamed for the spread of the virus.

Violence against Christians rises dramatically in sub-Saharan Africa

Of the top six countries where Christians experience the most outright violence, five are in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria – which re-entered the top 10 for the first time since 2015 – saw the most violence against Christians in 2020, with armed Fulani militants killing, burning, kidnapping and raping with impunity. Islamist violence is also why Cameroon rose to 42 from 48, and why Democratic Republic of Congo (40) and Mozambique (45) are new entries to the top 50.

Authoritarian governments increase surveillance and restrictions

Increasingly, countries are using modern surveillance methods to monitor citizens for their own ‘protection’ and ‘security.’ In China (up to 17 from 23) a mix of new laws and increased surveillance have propelled it back into the top 20 for the first time in a decade.

Religious nationalism continues to fuel persecution

Since the 2016 attempted coup against President Erdogan, Turkey (25) has pursued a much more open Islamist and nationalist agenda. Increasing violence and intolerance directed towards Christian minorities sees it rise 11 places. In India (10), rising Hindu nationalism continues to claim that ‘to be Indian is to be Hindu’.

The Author
Dan works part time with Open Doors, mainly sorting out the comms stuff for youth and students. In his other life he's a freelance writer and graphic designer who likes collecting records and sitting on beaches looking at waves.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.